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B.C. flood watch: Province most vulnerable to extreme weather right now

High snowpacks through the Cariboo and Rocky Mountains puts cities like Kamloops and Prince George at high risk for flooding.

As B.C. braces for what weather Mother Nature will bring this summer, experts are closely watching June and calling it a "critical" weather month for flooding in the province. 

Head of the River Forecast Centre David Campbell is concerned with the time left to melt the snow before things turn warm for summer. 

"We are getting into the time of year that it is expecting to be warmer and with all that snow kind of there, that risk of how it comes down is certainly present,” he says.  

April and May were considered “cool” for spring and put a massive delay on the snowmelt. 

"We are seeing snowmelt now, but it really has been pushed back three to four weeks behind normal,” says Campbell. "That is concerning because we are really squeezing that period of time that we melt that snow off.”

The next few weeks are being hailed a “critical window” for when B.C. will be most vulnerable to extreme weather. 

"In the short term, we have concerns about heavy rainfall that’s coming in parts of the province. That could be a concerning scenario,” he says. 

Not just heavy rain, but the combination of a warm spell is worrisome too. Campbell tells Glacier Media the situation could trigger flooding if temperatures rise eight to 10 degrees above normal.

Moderate temperatures and heavy rainfall could also be problematic. 

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist agrees the weather in June sets up the summer and is a critical month for the Interior regarding fires. 

"There hasn’t been any extraordinary rain, extraordinary heat. So we are kind of dodging a lot of bullets here with fire weather and the freshet. June is going to be a really interesting event because if we get through without any significant disasters, so far so good,” he says. 

Thunderstorms are a weather event Lundquist is watching for. 

"It’s probably the thing I am most concerned about this year. And the reason is that thunderstorms often come with heavy downpours. So even if we get an extended rain say in the Interior with some embedded thunderstorms, this is what tends to throw us over the top as far as flash flooding,” he says. 

B.C. is forecast to have a “cold” summer, which is a good thing for wildfire weather. 

"We do live in a big province, there is bound to be problems somewhere, but we’ve been lucky so far,” says Lunquist. 

Best scenario to avoid floods

Campbell says the ideal situation is no extreme weather.

“Not wet or not hot is going to be the ideal situation,” he says.

Seasonal or even mild weather is fine, as long as it isn't too wet. 

"We can handle short bursts of warm weather... A couple of days [of] above-normal temperatures is not causing too many problems,” he says. 

Which B.C. city is most at risk for flooding?

After a dramatic year of fires and floods wreaking havoc on communities, Campbell and the team at the River Forecast Centre are paying close attention to the snowpack in the Cariboo and the Rocky Mountains. 

"In terms of specific areas that have a lot of seasonal risks this year, we are certainly concerned about the high snowpacks through the Cariboo and Rocky Mountains, which could impact places like Prince George or Kamloops in terms of major centres,” he says. 

It would also have a large impact on a number of small communities that have exposure to the rivers that flow through the area. 

The June 1 snow survey and water supply bulletin is expected to be released on June 8.